What you need to know
- A Texas tech law is currently going through an appeal court in the U.S.
- A judge presiding over the case seems convinced that Twitter is not a website, but rather an "internet provider."
- Another judge expressed that without the law, phone carriers could terminate phone calls that contain speech they don't like.
A federal judge presiding over an appeal regarding a new Texas tech law appears convinced that Twitter is now in fact a website, but an internet provider.
Protocol reports proceedings pertaining to a new Texas tech law that was appealed by Big Tech trade groups and successfully paused, from Tuesday:
The judges presiding over the hearing in a New Orleans courtroom were weighing whether to clear the way for a Texas law that was designed to punish social media services for alleged anti-conservative bias.
At the urging of two Big Tech trade groups, a federal district court had previously paused the law, finding — as many courts have before — that government actions to force private actors to adopt a particular political view violate the Constitution's First Amendment.
The state of Texas has appealed the pause and is trying to get the law back on the books, but it sounds like the judges were having some difficulty understanding some pretty basic concepts in the case:
Texas then appealed its loss, leading to Monday's hearing, during which one judge suggested that Twitter isn't even a website and another wondered if phone companies have a First Amendment right to kick people off their services.
Judge Edith Jones told a lawyer for the plaintiffs, trade groups representing Big Tech platforms like Google, Meta, and Twitter, that their clients were "internet providers... not websites."
Another judge, Andrew Oldham, also expressed concern that without the new law, mobile carriers like Verizon could stop customers from making calls if they contain speech the carrier doesn't like:
"Under your theory, could Verizon decide that they're going to overhear every phone call … and when they hear speech they don't like, they terminate the phone call?" Oldham said.
Oldham also expressed concern over the "extraordinary" rules that state liberal speech, as well as conservative speech, could be banned on platforms, alluding to the impending takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk:
"Its new ownership … could just decide that we, the modern public square of Twitter … will have no pro-LGBT speech, period, full-stop, end-of-story?" Oldham said, seemingly gesturing to Elon Musk's expected takeover of Twitter.
The report notes Jones "appeared to confuse internet service providers (broadband and wireless companies) with interactive computer services more than once"